Updated 49ers defensive line depth chart after frenzy of free agency moves

The Niners' defensive line is going to look considerably different in 2024 compared to what it was like last season.

San Francisco 49ers defensive tackles Kevin Givens (L) and Javon Hargrave (R)
San Francisco 49ers defensive tackles Kevin Givens (L) and Javon Hargrave (R) / Robin Alam/ISI Photos/GettyImages

The 49ers defensive line underwent plenty of substantial changes at the outset of NFL free agency, so let's predict what the depth chart will look like in 2024.

Almost the entirety of the San Francisco 49ers' efforts during the opening wave of free agency in 2024 focused on their defensive line.

One of the Niners' tougher decisions involved the release of veteran defensive tackle Arik Armstead in a cap-savings move, which created a significant void in the interior of the D-line that needed to be filled. Armstead's primary backup, Javon Kinlaw, is also gone by way of signing with the New York Jets. Additionally, San Francisco lacked pass-rushing depth behind edge Nick Bosa, especially with defensive ends Clelin Ferrell, Chase Young and Randy Gregory all heading to the open market.

With the 49ers' financials stressed by being right up against the salary cap, adding high-profile names was going to be difficult.

Yet the Niners were able to onboard some key players for the D-line, both via trades and by the free-agent wire.

New faces include edge rushers like Leonard Floyd and Yetur Gross-Matos, while San Francisco also added former Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Jordan Elliott to help mitigate Kinlaw's loss. On top of that, San Francisco executed a trade with the Houston Texans to acquire fellow interior lineman Maliek Collins, who'll likely wind up being a starter alongside defensive tackle Javon Hargrave.

So, what'll the 49ers' revised D-line depth chart look like?

49ers D-line depth chart after opening wave of NFL free agency

For the football novice, the Niners play what's called a 4-3 base defense, which means four defensive linemen and three linebackers behind them. However, San Francisco typically operates in a nickel defense, especially in passing situations, which means one of the linebackers comes off the field in favor of another defensive back. Four D-linemen still take the field, though.

D-line rotations also change depending on the situation: run-stoppers typically take the field on plays where the probability of a run is high, whereas pass-rushers are frequently on the field for likely passing plays. It's a guessing game, but a defense can pretty much bank on a 3rd-and-long play being a pass instead of a run.

Also, just because a defender starts doesn't mean he winds up seeing the bulk of snaps over a game.

Got it? Good.

49ers base-down D-line depth chart

  • DE Nick Bosa (backups: Drake Jackson, Alex Barrett, Earnest Brown IV)
  • DT Javon Hargrave (backups: Austin Bryant, T.Y. McGill, Spencer Waege)
  • DT Maliek Collins (backups: Jordan Elliott, Kevin Givens)
  • DE Leonard Floyd (backups: Yetur Gross-Matos, Robert Beal Jr.)

Floyd isn't particularly great at stopping the run, which suggests the 49ers could look to add another base-down defender to help set the edge.

Collins would, however, be a first- and second-down defender on the interior, while both Bosa and Hargrave are every-down players.

49ers pass-rush D-line depth chart

  • DE Nick Bosa (backups: Drake Jackson, Earnest Brown IV)
  • DT Javon Hargrave (backups: Maliek Collins, Jordan Elliott, Kevin Givens)
  • DE Yetur Gross-Matos (backups: Austin Bryant, T.Y. McGill, Spencer Waege)
  • DE Leonard Floyd (backups: Robert Beal Jr.)

The Niners will swap out a run-stopping defensive tackle for an extra pass-rusher who'll play a 3-technique position in pass-rushing situations, and Gross-Matos should probably get the nod as someone who can work over interior offensive linemen.

Meanwhile, a battle between Beal and Jackson in training camp should be one to watch, especially as there might only be room for one of those two on the 53-man roster.

Of note, San Francisco probably keeps only 10 D-linemen on the regular-season roster, meaning some of the names toward the back end of the depth chart will either be practice squad bodies or cut altogether by the time Week 1 rolls around.

But that's drama for another time.

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